Seen in this light, Mr. Obama’s search for a true “Third Way” isn’t a stylistic choice or a cynical exercise in triangulation. Nor is it naive, except in the sense that leaders willing to make big bets to move history can be deemed dreamy by definition. Liberals who mock Mr. Obama’s Republican flirtations fail to appreciate that his bipartisanship is an effort to play for bigger stakes. He’s daring to link a political strategy to an attempt to actually solve America’s major policy challenges.
Though it sounds like an oxymoron, “visionary centrism” is the name Mr. Obama’s problem-solving pragmatism deserves, because that’s what consequential presidents do — define a new political center and mobilize support for it. When the dust clears in a few years, Mr. Obama’s new center will be well to the left of the old one.